Thursday, July 08, 2010

Someone's In The Kitchen, I Know-oh-oh-oh . . .

Francie wants to learn how to cook. I mean, really cook, not just heat and eat kinds of things.

Thank you, Little House on the Prairie audio books, for inspiring my children to want to chop wood, tend the farm, and cook a meal while I walk to town for a ten pound bag of salt.

(Let's not remind them that we don't have a farm, we don't need to cook on a wood stove, and I have a perfectly good box of salt right in the pantry, hmmm?)

In theory, I am a huge fan of Francie cooking some meals. HUGE fan, because do you know how much of my day is spent in the kitchen? A LOT.

If I could delegate a fraction of that time, think of how free I would be to sit around and read blogs and update my Facebook status. Heck, I might have enough time to actually comment on your posts instead of looking like an anti-social lurking jerk. (Which I am, but let's not split hairs, shall we?)

But in practice, I don't know how jazzed I am about welcoming Francie into the kitchen. In fact, I find myself gritting my teeth when I think about it too long.

You don't have to tell me that I lost Mother of the Year with that admission. I know. I am a bad mom who doesn't want to teach her child some good, practical life skills.

And why don't I want to?

Well, here's the thing. I think of the kitchen as my little area. I have embraced the fact that I spend 95.3% of my waking hours in the kitchen, and as such I know every nook and cranny like the back of my hand.

I shop and I put the food away. I organize the cabinets according to how I need to use them. I know where everything goes.

More importantly, I also CLEAN the kitchen. I wouldn't recommend coming through with a white glove, but I make sure my sink is empty and my counters are wiped every night. I wash the floors and clean out the fridge.

I have even been known to clean out my oven, but don't let that get around.

And now, Francie wants to come in and start doing things. By herself. With fire and knives and cracked eggs and flour and all sorts of assorted culinary goodies. And you know what comes with that . . . a huge mess.

I'd really would like her to learn how to cook some simple meals. I remember the independence and responsibility I felt when I first learned how to cook. There is something very beautiful about feeling capable, especially when that capability means you can feed yourself or others.

But . . . but . . .

I am going to have to let go of . . . well, let's just say I'm going to have to let go of a lot. Even when she cleans up after herself, I'm going to have to turn a blind eye and let her go. I will have to fight the urge to say "you missed a spot."

I know, it's bad . . . but I'm going to do it. We will have our own HomeFront Institute of the Culinary Arts if it kills me. And it just might. HICA, here we come . . .

What kinds of dishes would you recommend I teach Francie to make? Besides chocolate chip cookies, of course. I mean let's be real: no self-respecting cook can go without making chocolate chippers. I'm pretty sure they are the base of the food pyramid, right?

Oh, and while you're suggesting some good starting points for us, send up a prayer to St. Martha for me, will you? I'll need her to intercede on my behalf in a BIG way.


  1. I recommend starting with dessert, mostly because baking usually doesn't involve sharp objects. I have a couple of Gold Medal cookbooks written for children (this recipe came from there) and Faith has a princess cookbook which is o.k. -- if you like tea sandwiches and strawberry desserts (lots of sugar in that one). See if your library has some kids cookbooks, or go through your own cookbooks to find some simple recipes. Focus on learning to measure and basic skills -- stirring, folding, pouring, keeping track of baking times, handling hot pans. I taught my older sons to cook two summers ago. They enjoyed our time in the kitchen but it didn't really carry over to real meals prepared by them (although college boy does cook a little for himself). Once the newness wore off, they were happy to let me do all the work! They also realized cooking is not "instant food" and they would rather spend time doing "fun" things.

  2. I recommend simple meals - grilled sandwiches and side salad - involves chopping and prepping while also monitoring the grilling sandwiches - teaches time management and there isn't too much splatter factor. Baking is always fun but I like to think real meals. Next move on to dinner. What is her favorite food? Would it be easy to teach her how to make it? Baking items isn't very difficult and you can arrange things in layers for casseroles. Check out 5 Below - they always seem to have kids cookbooks there that you can get cheap. Have fun!! It won't be as bad as you think although I admit it is hard to stand back while the egg shells drop into the bowl. I've learned to use small bowls on the side (like the cooking shows) so we can start over on a small part instead of the whole thing. Makes more dishes but saves my sanity! Speaking of eggs - pancakes and breakfast foods are a good place to start too. V loves to make pancakes with me. Still mixing and measuring but faster result than baking and you get to flip things!

  3. I'd second the breakfast idea. That's how I started to learn: eggs of all kinds (scrambled first), french toast, pancakes, oatmeal/hot cereals. From there I graduated to spaghetti, buttered noodles, and other such simple pasta items with a side vegetable. Meat can be added in whenever, then, and from there it's on to the meat and potatoes full meals. Voila! Bon appetit, and enjoy your new little helper! (A willing, unpaid chef? I'm jealous.) And, yes, just teach that cleaning up is part of the cooking and you've got it made!

  4. Anonymous3:08 PM

    I suggest pork medallions, pizza, oven fried chicken, impossible hamburger pie, blueberry buckle, lemon pound cake w/ lemon drizzle icing, jewish sour cream coffe cake, lemon meringue pie, cinnamon buns, ......


  5. Middle Sister got her feet wet helping me make Chicken Piccata, believe it or not. She had to get over her "ick factor" of touching the raw meat.

    I was 10 or 11 when I was helping my mom make spaghetti and meatballs. Open cans for sauce, add water (1/2 can of water for each can of tomatoes), add spices, mix meatballs, shape meatballs, bake on foil covered sheet...that's definitely easy and she could do it. You can even make it in a crockpot. Then portion it out and freeze for later!

  6. Rachael Ray has a very good kids' cookbook (can't remember the name of it right now). Give that a try!

  7. I think I started with scrambled eggs for sunday breakfast. Ask her what she wants to learn how to make. Perhaps a favorite food would be a good place to start... once you get it right it's great because you really like it. I think I recall that she doesn't like spaghetti sauce, but boiling some noodles and adding a bit of butter wouldn't be a bad start. Perhaps she could make some baked chicken to go with her noodles.

  8. Anonymous5:06 AM

    Ok...I'll admit I was a little apprehensive too at first BUT it is SO worth it! Just had a night this week while boys were away and I was sick...guess who made dinner AND cleaned up. Remember...we didn't start out as the domestic experts we are today. :-)
    Liz loves to make french toast or pancakes and for dinner...pasta. Homemade pizza can be fun while they chop their favorite toppings but no measuring needed.
    Have fun!

  9. How about crockpot foods? Like a potroast or chicken soup? It's totally forgiving on the measuring part, and lots of time to clean up since there's no stove/pans involved.

    I second the idea of breakfast. My older brothers taught me how to cook eggs. After going through it step by step verbally, he had me repeat it before I actually did it. (think pop quiz) When he asked, how do you tell if the pan is hot, I answered "uh, spit on it? if it sizzles, it's ready"

    he thought about it a second, then said, yeah, that works but I'm not eating your eggs.

    So maybe you don't want my advice after all...

  10. I completely understand what you are saying, and I don't even keep a very clean kitchen. :) My girls would love to help me more, but I am just so impatient. And baking is relaxing to me, so it is really hard to let the kids come and help with that. How do you teach a kid to use a knife? That is one of my big issues--I'm afraid we'll lose a digit or two! Good luck and share your stories as you go please. ;)

  11. I was MORE than happy to have Ivy learn to make a few dishes. She got started with eggs, pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches. Now she's on to stir-fry, which is awesome! She also makes a mean tuna/smoked salmon salad that she came up with all on her own. Ok, so tuna salad doesn't require a whole lot of cooking, but we do like hard boiled eggs in it. Another dish that Ivy enjoys making is chicken pot-pie (PA Dutch style, of course). She also likes helping with Shepherd's Pie. The mashed potatoes are her thing.

    I'm with Diane in that cleaning up should be part of the cooking lesson ;)

  12. Pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, pancakes, grilled cheese, casseroles. Also, let her come up w her own recipes, Michael created his 'grilled cheese special'. I have found they will try more foods if they helped cook and/or grow it. Have fun!!!!

  13. I'm am SO with you on this. My kitchen is really small...there just isn't enough room to have too many (if any) people in there. girls are quite young...6 & 4.
    I think I will try a designated "Kitchen Helper" Day. That way...I will only have one at a time and I can plan out in my mind what I want each child to do.

    Thanks for this post!


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